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Cancun, Mexico will always hold a special place in my heart. Since I was only a few feet tall, I have been coming on regular trips with my family to explore this beautiful area and overindulge at all-inclusive resorts. Cancun may be touristy, but I just can’t get enough!
During over a dozen trips to Cancun, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some pretty spectacular activities – some while I was as young as 7! Despite this, I remember them as if they were yesterday. And although I didn’t have a camera in hand and a laptop in my bag back then, I still loved writing about my trips.
After all those visits, I decided it was time to share all the best things to do in Cancun with you! This list includes just about every activity I have ever done in Cancun (aside from some that are no longer operating) and the best Cancun tours. It’s the ultimate Cancun bucket list and is sure to help plan your upcoming visit to Cancun, Mexico!
- Fun Things to do in Canun, Mexico
- 1. Swim with whale sharks
- 2. Go on a sailing trip
- 3. Party!
- 4. Relax at one of Cancun's best beaches
- 5. Take a trip to the Cancun Underwater Museum
- 6. Explore Rio Secreto Underground River
- 7. See the talented Cirque du Soleil JOYÀ
- 8. Visit Tulum
- 9. Spend the day at Xcaret
- 10. Go shopping
- 11. Swim in cenotes
- 12. Visit the Museo Maya de Cancún y Zona Arqueológica de San Miguelito
- 13. Visit the Interactive Aquarium Cancún
- 14. Day or overnight trip to Isla Holbox
- 15. Visit Chichen Itza
- 16. Take in the views from the Cancun Scenic Tower
- 17. Go scuba diving
- 18. Isla Mujeres day trip
- 19. Go deep-sea fishing
- 20. Take a photo with the Cancun Sign
- 21. Watch a Lucha Libre show
- 22. Experience a Temazcal Ceremony
- 23. Explore Playa del Carmen
- 24. Stand up paddleboarding
- 25. Enjoy a dining experience at Xoximilco Theme Park
- 26. Enjoy some water sports
- 27. Spend the day at Ventura Park
- 28. Participate in a turtle release
- 29. Visit Isla Contoy
- 30. Explore Nichupte Lagoon
- 31. Wander the El Meco Ruins
- 32. Go on a food tour
- 33. Take a trip to Las Coloradas
- 34. Captain Hook Dinner Cruise & Show
- 35. Enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach
- 36. Check out Puerto Morelos
- 37. Go ziplining
- 38. Explore El Rey Archaeological Zone
- 39. Play golf at Iberostar Golf Club
- 40. Xplor Adventure Park
- Where to Stay in Cancun
- Thanks for reading!
- Renting a Car in Mexico
- Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
Fun Things to do in Canun, Mexico
1. Swim with whale sharks
When traveling to Cancun, you always hear about its amazing nightlife, crystal-clear waters, white-sand beaches, and of course, delicious margaritas. But have you ever heard about swimming with sharks in Cancun? More specifically, whale sharks.
Although whale sharks aren’t technically sharks (they’re actually the largest fish in the world), this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Cancun.
Unfortunately, you won’t find these beautiful creatures swimming in front of Mandala Beach, so you will need a boat ride to reach them. That means that a tour is the only way to go on this adventure!
This full-day whale shark tour picks you up at your hotel, whether you’re in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or anywhere on the Rivera Maya. The tour includes an expert biologist guide who speaks both English and Spanish – it’s the perfect way to interact with whale sharks and learn about them!
On top of that, you’ll get a delicious lunch and use of snorkeling equipment, and a life jacket. The best part is that the lunch is served off the coast of Isla Mujeres. This way, you can have two amazing experiences in one day.
Whale shark season in Cancun runs from the 15th of May until the 17th of September, with the best time being in the middle of that. During that time of the year, the whale sharks gather on the northern coasts of the Yucatan. If you are lucky, you could also catch a glimpse of a Manta ray swimming along with the whale sharks.
Don’t let their size intimidate you, either. Whale sharks are friendly and harmless to humans; they are on a strict plankton-only diet!
Be sure to book your whale shark tour in advance for around $145 USD as spaces are limited!
2. Go on a sailing trip
We all love the beach clubs, but they’re a bit generic, right? A sailing trip is a fantastic alternative to spending your day chilling by the sea.
Catamaran tours from Cancun are very common and usually involve unlimited drinks, snorkeling, lunch, and fantastic views. Now, you can book these through your resort if you wish, however, be prepared to pay a huge premium. Back in 2019, I paid over $120 USD for a half-day tour through a resort!
Thankfully, these days there are other options. This specific half-day sailing tour offers you the chance to sail out to Isla Mujeres and snorkel with turtles at the same time for almost half the price! Isla Mujeres has breathtaking azure waters, full of colorful fishes and lots of turtles. Swimming there is like swimming in a pool! It’s one of the best things to do in Mexico.
Did you forget your snorkeling equipment? No worries, snorkeling equipment is included in this tour as well as an open bar and snacks. You’ll also get to take a trip to downtown Isla Mujeres, where you can experience the true Mexican island life and some of the other fun things to do in Isla Mujeres like shopping!
Overall I loved the sailing tour, and it was one of the best sailing tours I have done in Mexico (mainly because we got to see turtles). The huge catamaran had lots of space, and the drinks never stop flowing! Plus it only costs $80 USD per person – what a steal!
If you’re more into relaxing with a drink in hand and don’t want to spend all day long at sea, don’t worry, there are plenty of activities available for you in Cancun. Cancun is known for its nightlife and amazing clubs and as I grew up, I found this out very quickly.
Coco Bongo is one of the most popular nightclubs in Cancun. This club features live music, acrobats, and a party atmosphere that will keep you dancing all night long!
Since everybody wants to visit this club, getting in can become a bit hard. For that reason, it’s better to book your tickets in advance. This advanced ticket allows you to skip the line and includes 15 drinks! Plus, you’ll actually get a seat for the show (naturally, standing for hours on end will be no fun.)
If you really want to party, every year from February to March, Cancun is a hot spot for spring breakers. The party can become quite wild, though. But remember, what happens in Cancun stays in Cancun.
Related Read: Besides Cancun, another great party city in Mexico is Cabo San Lucas!
4. Relax at one of Cancun’s best beaches
When staying in Cancun, the first thing you will want to do is hit the beach. The best beaches in Cancun are either within walking distance or are just one bus ride away from the hotel zone.
Cancun beaches do not have opening hours, and all are free, so you can hit the beach from sunrise until sunset! But be warned, I’ve had my fair share of bad sunburns in Cancun!
The top five beaches to check out in Cancun are:
Playa Chacmool is a hidden gem in the heart of the hotel zone. This beach has public showers and a palapa area, all free of charge. This beach is often quiet especially if you stay on the southern end. As you head further north towards Playa Gaviota Azul is can get much busier and a lot more vibrant.
Don’t forget to bring food and drinks with you, there are no vendors by the beach. However, there is a Oxxo at the entrance to the beach which comes in handy!
Playa Tortugas is not the beach for reading a book. The vibe here is a party, with loud music and lots of people. It can get a bit crowded, so be sure to arrive early.
The water here is calm, with only small waves, so it’s a good spot for swimming. You can do some snorkeling or diving around the area in its shallow clear waters.
There are some food vendors and restaurants along the beach. Get a coconut to refresh yourself from the heat. Most places don’t take credit cards, so be sure to bring some cash.
You can easily reach Playa Tortugas by taxi or bus from the Hotel Zone in Cancun.
Playa Delfines is arguably one of the most popular beaches in Cancun. The beach got its name because you can actually spot dolphins from time to time playing in the ocean (Delfines means dolphin in English.)
The beach area is huge here, and it’s also where you’ll find the famous Cancun sign. There are lots of shade (palapas) set up on the beach to hide from the sun, and although the waves can be strong, they have a lifeguard on duty.
Free public restrooms are available, but there are limited services at this beach. If you arrive early, you can spot gigantic iguanas taking the sun in the morning.
Playa Gaviota Azul
Playa Gaviota Azul is one of the busiest beaches in Cancun since it’s right in the heart of the hotel zone. There is no way to get lost, there is a big sign next to the entrance. Next to Mandala beach club, you will locate the beach entrance.
If you don’t feel like paying for a beach bed at the beach club, you can just bring your towel and drinks. This beach has calm shallow waters, with white sand. This is an excellent place to have a relaxing time.
An interesting area on this beach is the Cubos, and man-made sea barrier, made of massive concrete cubes. It is a good place for interesting snaps.
While bringing your food and beverages is allowed, glass bottles are not. Camping is not allowed either.
Playa Langosta is another beautiful beach especially if you love calm shallow waters. It’s often packed with locals and has a large entrance to the beach. We actually came here after visiting the Scenic Tower Cancun as it’s only a short walk away.
Playa Langosta is completely free to visit and you’ll find vendors walking up and down the beach. There are also some beach clubs around if your looking for lunch!
5. Take a trip to the Cancun Underwater Museum
One of the more quirky things to do in Cancun is to head underwater and explore the Museo Subacuatico de Art, aka the Underwater Museum. We found it to be one of the best places to go snorkeling in Cancun!
The museum began taking shape in 2009 to help save some of the reef life near Cancun. Since the project started, over 500 sculptures have been placed under the water to create this unique reef.
You can do lots of different tours to the museum including this snorkeling tour, or this scuba diving tour to the reef from Cancun, and over 100,000 people visit every year. Thankfully, this has led to a reduction of visitors to natural reefs, helping them survive.
If you are doing the snorkeling tour keep in mind there is a $15 USD additional docking fee. There is quite a bit of swimming involved are there may be swells in the ocean so make sure you are a comfortable swimmer before booking.
This is the largest underwater museum in Mexico and a must-visit in my opinion!
6. Explore Rio Secreto Underground River
Rio Secreto is a protected natural reservoir of caves and underground rivers located in Playa del Carmen, just one hour away from Cancun. The caves and passages are extensive, and there are still unexplored areas of the caves. They have lots of unique fauna, like interesting-shaped spiders!
Walking in the dark is indeed a bit intimidating. Don’t be afraid, though; it’s all safe. You will be just walking inside the shallow, flowing caves enjoying the beautiful rock formations and crystal-clear water. This is an activity especially fun for people traveling with kids as they will love it.
You can choose to drive to Rio Secreto yourself and book only your tour to save money or book a tour with transport from Cancun. This specific tour offers both options, with the ticket-only tour costing $86 USD and with transport from Cancun option costing $109 USD. I personally drove myself in my rental car as it worked out cheaper for our group of four.
If you choose the transport option, this tour starts early in the morning at 8 am and includes an airconditioned vehicle and refreshments.
It’s important to note that when visiting Rio Secreto, make sure you don’t wear any sunscreen or mosquito repellent. This pollutes the water and is not required anyway.
Remember, this activity can be done even on a rainy day. So if you’re expecting bad weather, save it for those days!
7. See the talented Cirque du Soleil JOYÀ
If you want to do something fancy in Cancun, Cirque du Soleil JOYÀ is an excellent activity.
Everybody has heard about this entertainment company and its amazing shows. The Cancun show, JOYÀ, is the only Cirque du Soleil dinner theater in production. This production wants to appeal to all the five senses by offering several amenities with the show.
Dinner, aperitif, and champagne are all part of it. This whole dinner entertainment option is a memorable activity for couples, and Daniel and I loved it!
This show takes place in the Vidanta theater, between Playa del Carmen and Cancun, which is only 40 minutes from Cancun. If you don’t have a rental car, be sure to organize transport and book your tickets in advance! There are several options, including VIP, dinner only, drinks only, and both. I didn’t think VIP was worth the price, but dinner and drinks are a must!
8. Visit Tulum
The small town of Tulum is one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. This trendy town offers you a wide array of options when visiting. Just plan a one-day trip to the area and have an amazing adventure.
Whenever visiting Tulum, you cannot miss the chance to visit some of the nearby cenotes. Cenotes are a system of underground rivers, caves, and sinkholes that flow through the Yucatan Peninsula. This system is unique since the rivers are connected to the sea. Some of the best cenotes in Tulum are Dos Ojos, Cenote Calavera, and Cenote Zacil-Ha.
Some other awesome things to do in Tulum include visiting the Tulum Ruins, one of the coolest archaeological sites in the area, drinking craft beer at Cervecería Tulum, and exploring Laguna Kaan Luum. There are also plenty of great restaurants in Tulum for any foodies to enjoy.
If you don’t have a rental car in Mexico, you have two options. The first is taking a tour from Cancun to Tulum. My pick is this full-day tour to the Tulum ruins, Tulum Beach, and a cenote. The tour includes lunch, snorkeling equipment, and an expert guide. It’s a pretty great value for just $119 USD and won the Viator Experience Award in 2022!
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can just take the bus all the way there from Cancun downtown. This is a budget-friendly adventure since the bus to Tulum is only $9 from Cancun. If you are staying in the hotel zone, take a bus to Cancun downtown, then get off at Ado Bus Station. Although cheap, this is a lot more time-consuming since the buses stop frequently.
9. Spend the day at Xcaret
When visiting a resort in Cancun, you may wonder if the only thing to do there is to lie by the beach and get sun-kissed while enjoying frozen margaritas.
Don’t get me wrong, we all love frozen margaritas and piña coladas, but occasionally we feel like having an adventure.
Well, Xcaret waterpark is the best option if you want to enjoy a fun day out of the resort while still feeling like you’re at a resort. And don’t worry if a waterpark isn’t you’re thing. This place is more than that. Xcaret is an archeological eco-water amusement park.
This eco-water park is near the Cancun area and offers you a wide array of activities like snorkeling, swimming at the Caleta, visiting Mayan pyramids, enjoying live performances, an aquarium, and an aquatic park.
You can even swim with dolphins, manta rays, or sharks for a surcharge.
Suppose you don’t feel like spending all day long doing water activities? In that case, you can visit the Mayan Pyramids located inside the park or enjoy one of the performances available all day long.
There are many ways to get to Xcaret from the Cancun area. The easiest way is on this full-day tour that offers transportation from your hotel to the park with all the amenities included.
I recommend booking the Xcaret Plus service since it includes access to the lunch buffet and other amenities like lockers, dressing rooms, and snorkeling equipment. You’ll need to eat while you’re there and you save money booking it together online in advance.
If you don’t want to be on a tour you can also drive yourself or book a shuttle from Cancun to Xcaret. If you book with the shuttle bus from Xcaret it is more comfortable and also includes a single-day park entry.
10. Go shopping
When it comes to shopping, Cancun is full of options – especially luxury ones. If you are looking to use the tax-free benefit when purchasing luxury goods, I would recommend visiting La Isla Shopping Mall, located in the hotel zone.
The application process for tax-free benefits can be a bit bothersome, but taxes in Mexico are 16%, so you would end up saving a lot by applying for this.
The Cancun hotel zone is also full of small souvenir shops like Plaza Party or Mercado Negro Mall. You could find various things like tequila, colorful Mexican blankets, small presents like keyholders, chocolates, and other Mexican candies in these places.
If you feel like these souvenirs are way too common, you can visit the Mercado 28 in downtown Cancun. This place is just one ride away from the hotel zone. I recommend taking a taxi from the hotel zone directly to the market. It is a bit pricey, but it would save you a lot of hassle.
You can do some shopping and have lunch there. Eat like the locals and have a bite of the local Mexican food. On a hot day, Ceviche or Mojarra (tilapia-like fish) and beer are the way to go! Just be sure to do your shopping before having a beer. You want to be the smartest when negotiating the prices of your souvenirs.
11. Swim in cenotes
Did you know there are plenty of cenotes to visit near Cancun? La Ruta del Cenote is a famous area filled with hundreds of Cenotes located in Puerto Morelos, just one hour drive away from Cancun downtown.
If you are feeling like having a one-day adventure, you can explore some of the famous cenotes in the area. Cenote La Noria, Verde Lucero, Cenote Mojarras are few of them.
To get to La Ruta del Cenote, you would need to rent a car or book a tour – there is no public transportation available. Depending on the season, there is a small fee to visit each cenote of around 200 to 400 Mexican pesos ($10-$20 USD), and they are all open from 11 am to 4 pm.
Cenote La Noria is partially open, so you would be swimming inside a cavern. You can see some small birds and bats flying around you while you enjoy its beautiful water. This is a hidden spot inside the jungle with no crowds. It is a relaxing place with very few people. This cenote costs 250 pesos ($12.80 USD).
Verde Lucero is a medium size open cenote. It is a beautiful place with hammocks, rope swings, and some small zip lines. It’s often pretty busy, and they offer a unique chance to enjoy a Temazcal – a traditional Mexican sauna. For a surcharge, you can experience the pre-Hispanic way of the sauna. It costs 300 pesos ($15 USD) to visit.
Cenote Mojarras is a big open cenote with a long zipline over it. In my opinion, it’s the least beautiful but can be the most fun – especially for kids who love ziplining. They have hammocks and a picnic area, but the water can become murky because the cenote is so big.
Selvatica is a big eco-park located inside La Ruta del Cenote. If you are up for a jungle adventure, this is your place. There are many options to choose from, but all of them have this in common, they are centered on eco-tourism. Cenote swimming is not the only activity you would find there.
You can enjoy camping, horse riding, zipline canopy, 4×4 ATV riding, and bungee swing are just a few of the things to do over there.
Another option is to drive down to scout out the most popular cenotes including Cenote Calavera, Dos Ojos, Zacil-Ha Cenote, Gran Cenote, and Cenote Azul. Or book a tour to Tulum, the cenote you visit will depend on which tour you book.
In this particular tour, you’ll first visit the Tulum archeological site before snorkeling in a reef, exploring a cave, walking through the jungle, and swimming in Xtun Cavernas cenote. It costs $109 USD and lasts around 8 hours. It is also a multi-lingual tour offered in 8 languages!
12. Visit the Museo Maya de Cancún y Zona Arqueológica de San Miguelito
The Museo Maya is an archeological museum conveniently located in Cancun’s hotel zone. The museum is home to lots of ancient artifacts from the Mayan civilization, and there are even artifacts from Chichen Itza housed here. It’s a very interesting place to visit in Cancun – especially for history lovers.
The San Miguelito Ruins located next to the museum span over 80 hectares and are home to ancient buildings now well preserved for visitors to see. You can visit both places at once and spend your day getting to know the Mayan Culture and its interesting history.
The entrance fee to the museum is only 80 pesos (USD not accepted) and includes access to San Miguelito archeological zone. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm, and the archeological zone is open from 9 am to 4 pm. The last entry to the ruins is 4:30 pm.
You can take one of the red buses down the strip to get to the museum – it’s super cheap and fun. The ticket is only one dollar, and you get off in front of the Emporio Hotel. Or, just grab a taxi from your hotel!
13. Visit the Interactive Aquarium Cancún
Another activity just around the corner at the hotel zone is a visit to the Interactive Aquarium. It is located inside La Isla Shopping Mall.
The basic entrance fee is only 300 pesos ($15 USD) if you only want to admire the beauty of the colorful fish. If you want to have a more memorable experience you can book one of the interactive services available, like swimming with dolphins.
This place has lots of interactive activities available. I recommend checking their website in advance to book their interactive services. Opening hours are from 9 am to 8 pm.
14. Day or overnight trip to Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is one of the most spectacular islands in Mexico and is located just over two hours away from Cancun. Isla Holbox has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mayan Peninsula and is a stark contrast to the resort town of Cancun.
On Isla Holbox, you can find small hotels and super cute properties with spots perfect for unforgettable shots. No big hotels in the area, only small boutique hotels that give you a very warm welcome.
It’s a tiny island and only 1,000 people live there permanently. Even during high season, you will always find an excellent spot to relax.
Take lots of pictures on the hammocks by the beach, and don’t forget to rent a bicycle to explore the island. In fact, there are no cars on Isla Holbox, and the best way to get around is on a bike or golf cart.
The economy of the island is based on fishing, so that means lots of fresh fish is on offer! Depending on the season, that can mean fresh lobster!
Getting to Isla Holbox is rather easy from Cancun and involves a 2-hour drive to Chiquila and then a 15-minute ferry to the island. If you’re visiting on your own, this is what you’ll do as well as book your hotel in advance (necessary since they often are fully booked.)
However, for those who don’t want the hassle, this specific tour is a great option. The top-rated day tour will take you directly to the ferry port and ferry tickets and all fees included. You just need to sit back and relax.
First, enjoy a visit to Isla Pasion, a heart-shaped island next to Holbox island. Then it’s off to Isla Holbox to enjoy the pristine beaches, laid-back island life, and delicious fresh seafood. The tour includes some time to enjoy the famous ocean hammocks as well as a 1-hour bike rental to explore the island. For an extra charge, you can grab a golf cart and explore at a quicker pace.
It’s a fantastic day; just be repaired for a long day and get some rest the night before (that means no Coco Bongo!) Be sure to book your tour to Isla Holbox in advance, numbers are limited on this highly-rated tour!
15. Visit Chichen Itza
Without a doubt, the most popular Mayan site in Mexico is Chichen Itza. This UNESCO world heritage site and World Wonder is a bucket list place to visit and a must for those visiting Cancun!
The archeological site is most well known as the home of El Castillo – the main temple at the site. It’s a true show of the Mayan peoples’ knowledge of the earth and planets. However, Chichen Itza is also home to The Great Ball Court. This is the largest in Mesoamerica and is 168 by 70 meters (551 by 230 feet.) The game played here was called Pitz. Overall, it’s one of the coolest sites I have visited and a must-do activity while in Cancun.
Getting to Chichen Itza is best done either with a rental car or on an organized tour. If you can drive yourself, it’s around a 2.5-hour drive each way, so be prepared for a long day! The entrance fee is 571 MXN ($30 USD) for adults, and the site is open from 8 am to 5 pm. Right now, it’s best to book your tickets in advance as they have a cap on visitors of 3,000 per day.
For those without a rental car or who don’t want the hassle of driving so far, consider booking an organized tour from Cancun. This specific tour is what I did, and I booked it because of all the fantastic reviews. The full-day tour departs very early in the morning before dawn; this way, you can make the most of the day while in Chichen Itza. Several meeting points are located throughout the hotel zone.
Visiting the Chichen Itza pyramids is the highlight. However, you also visit one of the cenotes in the Yucatan, Cenote Sagrado. If you book the deluxe tour, it costs $69 USD but includes breakfast, lunch, and your entrance fees ($31 USD). It visits Cenote Saamal vs Sagrado on the other tour.
Make sure you bring comfortable shoes, your camera, sunscreen, and some cash.
16. Take in the views from the Cancun Scenic Tower
One of the coolest attractions in the hotel zone is the Cancun Scenic Tower. This tall tower takes guests from the ground up over 80 meters (260 feet) into the air to enjoy spectacular views of the area. It’s the best place to take in the views of the Mexican Caribbean!
You might be thinking, do I have to walk up? The answer is no thanks to the design of the viewpoint. The entire viewing deck is lowered and lifts guests to the top so there is no walking required!
The entrance fee is only 20 USD, and business hours are from 9 am to 9 pm (sunset would be a great time to go!)
You can get to the Cancun Scenic Tower by taking an Uber/taxi or the bus to the hotel zone. Take the bus heading north and get off at the Embacadero stop. If feeling lost, just pay attention to the scenery – it’s not hard to spot the 260-foot tower!
Hot Tip: If you visited one of the nine parks by Xcaret (Xcaret, Xel-Há, Xenotes), don’t remove your bracelet right away. You can use that bracelet to access the scenic tower in Cancun for free the following days after your visit to those parks. Most people don’t know this!
17. Go scuba diving
Scuba diving in Cancun is a wild experience and one I love doing every time I visit. Daniel and I are both certified divers and really enjoyed this two-dive tour in Cancun. We got to dive at the Underwater Museum before heading to a nearby reef to dive with fish, turtles, and more!
There are also other dive site options, such as this wreck dive, which is next on my bucket list.
Of course, in most places around the world, you need to be certified to dive. Well, in Cancun, you don’t need to worry about that. Instead, book this beginner scuba diving tour and admire the beauty of the colorful sea fishes and visit the most popular diving spots accompanied by a pro diver.
Even without any diving experience, you can try this tour. You will get professional instruction with a two-hour lesson at a pool before departing for your sea adventure. You won’t dive deep, but you’ll still get to enjoy breathing underwater in a safe environment. The tour visits the underwater reefs of Manchones as well as the Cancun Underwater Museum – one of the top attractions in Cancun!
Departures are early in the morning from Real Inn Cancun at the hotel zone. All necessary equipment and fees are included.
18. Isla Mujeres day trip
Isla Mujeres is another one of the most beautiful islands in the Mexican Caribbean. The island is a 20-minute ferry ride away from Cancun and makes for a fantastic day or overnight trip.
There are a few ferry ports with trips departing to the island, such as Playa Tortugas and Playa Caracol. However, I myself got there with the company called Ultramar from the Puerto Juarez ferry terminal, only minutes from the hotel zone. Ferry tickets to Isla Mujeres are only around $540 MXN ($32 USD) for a round trip, and departures run every 30 minutes from 5:30 am to 11 pm. The schedule is similar on the way back.
If you’d rather have transportation and all the details taken care of, there are also some fantastic Isla Mujeres tours from Cancun that feel like a mini vacation during your vacation!
Isla Mujeres’s white-sand beaches with quiet, transparent waters make it one of the most popular day trips from Cancun. Even without snorkeling equipment, you will see beautiful colorful fishes swimming around you.
Playa Centro is the most accessible beach, just a few meters away from the ferry port. There, you can rent a deckchair by the beach for only 250 pesos ($13 USD) and have a fresh coconut under the palm trees.
Renting a golf cart is an excellent way to explore the remote beaches on the island, like the Na Balan beach, where you can have typical dishes from Yucatan cuisine, like the tasty lime soup. This soup is very refreshing after swimming on a hot day.
If you feel like spending the night in Isla Mujeres, there are various accommodations you can check out here. You won’t find massive properties like in Cancun. Most of them are small, family-owned businesses, each with its unique aesthetic. Be sure to make reservations in advance since the availability is limited. If you do stay the night, I recommend booking a whale shark tour in Isla Mujeres since it’s one of the best spots in Mexico to see these gentle giants!
19. Go deep-sea fishing
The fishing off the coast of Mexico is really good and Cancun provides the perfect opportunity to go deep-sea fishing.
There are a lot of tours available, including very expensive full-day tours; however, without a large group (up to 14 people), these tours are too expensive. So, do what Daniel did and go on this group fishing tour. You will have a fun day at sea, whether you are booking this tour with friends or by yourself.
First-timers are very welcome and the experienced captain will make sure you have a good catch, like barracudas, tunas, snapper, and even the elusive blue marlin. Beer, soft drinks, and all the necessary equipment for this trip are also included.
The departure is at sunrise from Marina Chac Chi located in the hotel zone. Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat!
20. Take a photo with the Cancun Sign
One of the most visited beaches in Cancun is Playa Delfines. It is not only one of the most beautiful beaches in Cancun, but it also hosts the big Cancun sign!
This colorful sign is the perfect spot to take a snap or two to remember your time in Cancun. I bet you have seen pictures of this place all over your social media!
Be prepared to get in line, though. Everybody wants to take a picture in this spot. With that said, if you go early in the morning, you can take your time to take as many shots as you like.
After your photo-op, you can part take in one of the fun activities available at the beach like kite sailing and even surfing.
21. Watch a Lucha Libre show
We all have heard about Mexican Lucha Libre (wrestling), right?
It’s fun and exciting, and the collective energy of the public cheering their favorite wrestler in the arena is something you must experience once in your lifetime. Although most commonly known as on of the best things to do in Mexico City, you can also see a Lucha Libre show in Cancun!
Las Luchas (that is what it’s called in Mexico) match takes place every Friday at 8:30 pm in Academia TWS, located in Cancun downtown.
This is a very cheap and fun activity you can try for only 150 pesos. Seats closer to the arena are on the pricier side, but you won’t miss any detail of the match from over there.
Although everybody is welcome here keep in mind this event is tailored to the locals, the language spoken will be Spanish. Don’t worry though, you won’t miss any of the fun, this is a show that doesn’t require too many words.
22. Experience a Temazcal Ceremony
A Temazcal is basically a pre-hispanic sauna used for hundreds of years by the indigenous people. The term “Temazcal” actually translates to “house of heat.”
One of the big differences between a Temazcal and a sauna is that it’s more of a spiritual journey led by a Sharman. It’s about cleansing the body, and the rituals can last hours. Of course, you won’t spend hours in the sauna, but there are some rituals before and after.
Temazcal tours are becoming very popular all around Latin America (I did one in Guatemala.) From Cancun, you can do this organized tour that takes you to a small Maytan town called Dos Palmas, where you’ll visit a local home and begin your ceremony.
You’ll learn to play the Sea Snail, which is a traditional instrument, before entering the Tezmacal and cleansing your body. You’ll also finish with a dip in a cenote to cool off. It’s a really fun experience that’s unique to Cancun!
23. Explore Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is just a one-hour drive away from Cancun. If you rent a car in Cancun, this is an easy day trip! Playa del Carmen is a small town, with lots of places to have fun. Restaurants, shopping malls, nightclubs, and beach clubs are just a few of the attractions in the area.
One of the most famous beach clubs in Playa del Carmen is Mamitas Beach Club. This club is always crowded with DJ music and a big party vibe. Everybody wants to spend the day there, make sure to arrive early to get a good seat at this day party.
If you just feel like spending a few hours in Playa, you can go shopping on 5th Avenue. Many small shops with cute souvenirs are located there. There are also two big shopping malls on the Avenue with high-end brands if you feel like splurging a bit during your stay.
An excellent way to get to know Mexican food is a visit to the Zocalo in Playa del Carmen. There, you can find delicious tacos, fresh fruits, and other snacks. The prices are very accessible and the food is amazing! If you want to have delicious tacos be sure to arrive around lunchtime.
To get to Playa del Carmen from Cancun, take the bus from Ado Station. The round ticket is only 150 pesos ($7.70 USD). Otherwise, there are lots of transport options such as a rental car or taxi.
24. Stand up paddleboarding
The Cancun Hotel Zone offers a wide array of activities, and one of my favorites is stand-up paddleboarding! You can rent SUPs on the beach for around $20 USD and try your luck at this fun and challenging activity in Cancun. It’s harder than it looks, but it’s a great workout!
If you think you’ll struggle, there is a laguna paddling tour that includes some instructions on how to master the paddleboard. To join this tour, you must go to Marina Kaybal. On the tour, you can enjoy the local wildlife while paddling on Laguna Nichtupe and taking in the breathtaking scenery. The sun rays hitting the water’s surface produce a very beautiful view that you will never forget!
For a unique experience, you can also do SUP yoga tours which are super unique, and I have yet to try! This tour in Cancun provides you with all the necessary equipment and instructor. To access this tour, take the bus to the hotel zone and get off at Playa Caracol. The entrance to the beach is next to the RIU hotel.
25. Enjoy a dining experience at Xoximilco Theme Park
Xoximilco is a park with water canals with very beautiful and colorful boats called trajineras. You may have read about these in Mexico City, as this attraction in Cancun is actually a replica of the Xochimilco Canals.
The boats are equipped for a party, with a big table that seats up to 20 people! This experience is a gastronomic tour while riding the trajineras. The tour includes tequila tasting, dinner, traditional Mexican candy tasting, and snacks.
While you cruise the canals and eat, live bands perform. Enjoy Mariachi, Norteno, and other traditional Mexican music styles while sipping tequila under the stars as you sail down the canals.
Don’t worry if your Espanol no ser Bueno, all hosts speak English, and they will make sure you have an amazing night!
You can expect to try traditional food from all over Mexico including chapulines (grasshopper) – they are surprisingly very tasty, full of protein, and go well with tequila. Cochinita (pork), mole, and tamarindo shrimps, among other Mexican traditional dishes, will be served during dinner.
The last part of the tasting includes a tray of bite-size Mexican candies like chocolate, coconut, and milk candy.
The tour begins at 7 pm but transport is not included. So, you’ll need to get a taxi there which takes around 25 to 30 minutes from Cancun. several points around the Cancun hotel zone. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance to ensure you get a seat. You don’t want to miss this Mexican party.
26. Enjoy some water sports
Water sports are a popular fun activity in Cancun. Parasailing, jet skiing, and flyboarding (water jets on your feet) are just a few of the activities you can take part in.
The easiest way to go is to spot a vendor by the beach. In some cases, you can negotiate the fares with the vendors. Their services do not require a reservation and are based on a first-come-first-served basis. Some hotels provide water sports services with a small discount for guests. Make sure to consult your concierge for more info.
Parasailing is a very popular activity at the Cancun shore – even kids can participate in it accompanied by an adult. The view from above is totally breathtaking. Jet skiing is also available at the beach. If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry, a life vest and short instructions course are included. The parasailing starts at $60 USD and Jet skiing costs around $80 USD and both are 30-minute trips.
Tortuga Beach has very accessible options for water sports like parasailing and jet skiing.
Flyboard is one of the most extreme yet memorable water sports you can experience in Cancun. The most popular spot for flyboard is in Marina Chac Chi. Services start anywhere from $90+USD for a 20-45 min ride depending on which company you go with. For a memorable experience, get the picture package. This way you will get the best snaps of yourself while flying 10 meters (33 feet) over the water!
27. Spend the day at Ventura Park
Sometimes, finding entertainment for kids can be tricky when you travel. However, an excellent option for families visiting Cancun is a visit to Ventura Park. I loved this park when I was younger and would happily spend all day here!
The theme park is home to a lot of exciting activities like canopy zipline, go-karts, waterslides, beach club, and wave pool. Located in the hotel zone, you can reach this park by taking a cheap taxi or the red bus.
The basic ticket starts at 550 pesos ($28 USD) with all food and drinks included. I would recommend that you get the Platinum ticket, which includes alcoholic beverages (for the adults) and access to the Go-Karts. With the VIP ticket, you can have access to all the services and virtual games, this is very good for families with teens.
For families, this is easily one of the best things to do in Cancun!
28. Participate in a turtle release
Another fun thing to do in Cancun is to take part in a turtle release. In this event, you will see baby turtles hatch and then make their way to the sea. The event takes place during full moon nights around midnight, but you can also see them during the day.
Just admire their little legs moving with bravery heading to the sea under the moonlight.
Some hotels such as Omni Hotels offer this experience along the hotel zone and Rivera Maya. Another popular place is out the front of the Sun Palace on Playa Delfines.
The best season for this activity is from May to September, just ask your hotels for details on nearby releases if you’re visiting Cancun during these months,
29. Visit Isla Contoy
Contoy Island (Isla Contoy) is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, and I agree! What you can see on the island is just amazing: a wide variety of corals, fish, wildlife, and the unique vegetation, even carnivore plants. You can also see small sharks on these virgin beaches.
Snorkeling by the island offers you the chance to admire the second-largest reef in the world. Only superficial snorkeling is allowed to avoid damage to the reef, perfect for inexperienced divers.
In recent years, it has become a wildlife reserve and national park and a wide variety of birds have made Contoy island their nesting place.
In order to preserve the natural environment on and around the island, visitor numbers are limited to only 200 people per day. This makes access to the island a bit complicated, and as such, the only way to visit is on a guided tour.
This specific tour will take you to Contoy Island and Isla Mujeres on the same day. The tour includes transportation, lunch, and snorkel equipment. It is a full-day tour of about 9 hours long at costs $133 USD per person.
30. Explore Nichupte Lagoon
Nichupte Lagoon is a natural paradise in the northern area of Cancun. It is a protected natural area full of mangroves and a water system where seven lagoons meet the sea. Fresh and saltwater mix in this lagoon, giving it a beautiful color.
One of the best ways to enjoy the lagoon is on a kayak. You’ll get to explore the mangroves and spot fish, birds, and maybe even crocodiles! This guided kayaking tour is one of the best! It is a half-day guided kayaking tour with all safety equipment required, and hotel pick-up can easily be arranged.
If you choose the sunrise tour, you will see crocodiles lying on the shores taking the morning sun. They are harmless as long as you don’t approach them, they are just minding their business, but they don’t mind getting their picture taken.
If you’d prefer not to paddle, this boat tour will take you to explore the lagoon with an English-speaking guide. The boat sails at 5 pm, and you will get to see the gorgeous Caribbean sunsets without having to lift a finger.
31. Wander the El Meco Ruins
El Meco Ruins are a small Mayan archeological site located in the north area of Cancun city. This small archeological zone is believed to have had an important role in the Mayan civilization’s navigation and trade. Some experts believe that it worked as a lighthouse to navigate to Isla Mujeres.
El Meco Ruins site often has no crowds and offers a more intimate visit than other ruins around Cancun – a stark contrast to Chichen Itza or Tulum.
Besides the ruins, the area is home to gigantic iguanas and friendly coatis. They are super cute; they will try to steal any snacks you might be carrying with you.
To get to El Meco you will need to take a taxi from the hotel area. In this area, public transportation is a bit scarce, so a taxi or Uber is probably your best bet.
Opening hours are from 8 am to 4 pm and the entrance fee is only 65 pesos ($3 USD).
Hot Tip: The Puerto Juarez ferry port it is near El Meco ruins. You can do an early visit to El Meco Ruins then later walk to the ferry port, and leave for Isla Mujeres to spend the day getting sun-kissed by the beach.
32. Go on a food tour
While the food served in the Cancun Hotel Zone is good, it is a mix of flavors for everybody’s tastebuds. So if you want to try the real Mexican flavors, you will have to visit downtown Cancun as most of the best Mexican restaurants in Cancun are located here.
The tacos from downtown restaurants have a real spicy Mexican flavor and tasty juicy meat. Al Pastor tacos are pork cooked under the flames with spices mixed to add a savory texture – soft juicy and crispy at the same time. We tried a few of these while on a taco tour in Cancun and they were some of my favorite tacos in Mexico!
To taste the best tacos in Cancun, consider joining a food tour such as this taco and beer tour! The tour includes all your tastings, which will have you leaving stuffed! They will pick you up at your hotel and will take you to the best taquerias in town, along with an English-speaking guide. Alcoholic drinks and Mariachi music are also included.
I actually did a food tour while on the Pacific Coast of Mexico and absolutely loved it. It was certainly one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta and I’m sure it will be in Cancun too!
33. Take a trip to Las Coloradas
Las Coloradas is a lagoon in the north area of the Yucatan Peninsula. What makes this place unique is the pink colorful hue of its waters. The lakes are part of the Río Lagartos Biosphere Reserve which is a protected area in Mexico.
Laguna Rosa (Pink Lagoon) is a salt-producing farm; the pink color comes from a harmless bacteria growing in it. This is a spot that you just cannot miss, the scenery is just out of this world. A pink lagoon that meets a blue sky – it’s picture-perfect.
Lagartos Natural Park is also home to flamingos and many other bird species. This park works as a nesting area for the flamingos. A visit to this place gives you the chance to see this beautiful bird up close.
The best way to visit Laguna Rosa and see flamingos is on a guided tour from Cancun. This particular tour includes transport from the hotel zone in Cancun as well as lunch for only about $100 USD per person.
34. Captain Hook Dinner Cruise & Show
If you feel like trying something different in Cancun then a Captain Hook Cruise is a fun way to spend your evening. Ride the Captain Hook Dinner Cruiser, a replica of a Spanish galleon, with a pirate show included.
This fun activity starts at 6:30 pm, departing in the hotel area. Expect and loud and talented cast to tell the story of Captian Hook while you enjoy a delicious dinner and open bar. Mojitos won’t stop following through the night and the fun host will take the party to the next level.
If you want a more VIP experience, get a bottle and you will get a seat on the upper part of the ship.
One of the things that I love about this tour in Cancun is that it is fun for everybody, even families! Children love the pirate entertainment as much as adults!
Related Read: For more evening ideas, check out the top sunset cruises in Cancun so you can see those gorgeous colors across the sky!
35. Enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach
Let’s face it, nothing is more romantic than a beach sunset accompanied by a meal and wine. The beaches of Cancun are inviting for a romantic dinner. Even if you are not staying at an all-inclusive hotel, you can have this romantic experience with your significant other.
This tour is a romantic package with dinner at Playa Ancha. They set up a table on the sand with a pathway made of rose peddles and candles as lights. For $400 USD the dinner includes 4 courses, an excellent waiter or waitress, music, and transport. You won’t find this service anywhere else in Cancun!
Of course, you don’t need to book a tour to enjoy a romantic dinner. Just head to one of the best beachside restaurants in Cancun. You should organize the dinner with them in advance as the best tables usually need to be reserved.
Having a romantic dinner by the beach is an excellent opportunity for a marriage proposal, or just having a romantic moment.
36. Check out Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos is a small bohemian fishing town, located 40 km (25 mi) south of Cancun. This is a very quiet beach town with no crowds, clear water, and white sand beaches. It’s a small town, with almost no tourist facilities and little English spoken – very different from the hotel zone in Cancun!
This town has a very different vibe and most accommodations here are small and very intimate with accessible prices. You’ll find plenty of delicious (and cheap) local restaurants in town. Try traditional Yucatan cuisine while you’re here like Cochinita and Lechon (steamed pork). Traditional food is very delicious and different from the food you can have in the Cancun resort area, you must try it. The Lechon sandwich is just AMAZING.
Contrary to what you might think, there are lots of fun things to do in Puerto Morelos. If you go to the main port there are several places offering tours and water activities, like scuba diving, one-day trip fishing on a small boat, or kayaking.
A reef tour is a fun activity for the day. Boats sail from the downtown port. The prices are very accessible, ranging from $45 to $70 USD. This is a very different type of reef tour; the local fisherman will take you to an amazing untouched reef.
If you choose to rent a car to visit Puerto Morelos, you can also visit La Ruta del Cenote, which is just a few minutes from this fishing town.
37. Go ziplining
If you are a very adventurous, active person, this next activity is for you!
What about ziplining in the middle of the Mayan jungle, just 30 min away from the hotel zone, right in the heart of La Ruta del Cenote?
This tour is the best option to do so. Ride the 3 km (1.9 mile) long zipline at high speed while enjoying the jungle scenery! Guide services and hotel pick-up are included (at an extra cost.) It’s a thrilling adventure that any adrenaline junkie will absolutely love!
38. Explore El Rey Archaeological Zone
El Rey is a Mayan archeological zone located in the Cancun hotel zone, one of the three important Mayan sites in the area. It is a very small site, just around the corner in the hotel zone. El Rey is the perfect activity in Canun for people who are interested in the Mayan culture but don’t want to go all the way to Chichen Itza.
The red buses in the hotel zone will take you there. You’ll find the entrance to the site right on Kukulcan Avenue, the entrance is very noticeable, you won’t miss it.
Business hours are from 8 am to 4:30 pm and the access ticket is only 65 pesos ($3 USD).
Hot Tip: Combine your visit to El Rey with Playa Delfines since they are located so close to each other! Visit the ruins early in the morning and later spend your day under a palapa on the beach.
39. Play golf at Iberostar Golf Club
One very convenient thing about the Cancun hotel zone is that it has everything you would like just around the corner, including golf courses!
My recommended place is Iberostar Cancun Golf Club. They have very attractive packages, which include meals and non-alcoholic drinks. If you book more than two people, they will pick you up at your hotel (in the hotel zone.)
You need to book in advance since this place is always busy. Most cards are accepted, and basic packages start at 2,100 Mexican pesos for 4 hours of play.
Note: If you want to pay in cash, be sure to bring pesos with you since dollars are not accepted. Business hours are from 6 am to 7 pm.
40. Xplor Adventure Park
After another adventure in Cancun? Look no further than Xplor Adventure Park, another theme park of the Xcaret Brand. The park is open from 9 am to 5 pm and again from 5 pm to 11 pm Monday to Saturday and is located just off the Tulum/Cancun highway, about 1 hour south of Cancun.
Entrance to the park costs around $129 USD, which includes lots of activities such as ziplining, waterfalls, driving atv vehicles, swimming through cenotes, and lunch. The best way to get to Xplor is to drive yourself, but hotel pickup and transportation are available through organized tours or through a shuttle bus.
I would personally recommend booking the shuttle bus from Cancun as the cost of your ride also includes the price for admission and you’ll be traveling in Explor Park’s own comfort bus.
A single day here is one to remember, soaring the trees on over 14 different zip lines covering a massive 2.4 miles on two circuits. Additionally, with swimming/rafting through caves with stalactites and driving a four-wheel buggy through flooded caves and jungle scenes, it’s a day of excitement!
You can take the hassle out of your visit by booking this organized tour that includes transport from Cancun. Although slightly more expensive, transport is a huge bonus, and shuttles/ taxis are not cheap.
If you are a bit more daring there is also the nighttime version which is sure to be a drastic setting for a lot of the activities like the zip line, ATV, rafting, etc.
Where to Stay in Cancun
Cancun is the land of hotels and there certainly is no shortage of fantastic places to stay. I myself have stayed at a huge variety of hotels both in the hotel zone and in downtown Cancun. To be honest, I prefer the hotel zone for a beach holiday!
For budget travelers, the Selina Cancun Laguna Hotel Zone is a great choice. It doesn’t have the greatest reviews, but I really enjoyed my stay and for the price and fun atmosphere, you can’t go wrong! You can book this hostel on Hostelword or Booking.com.
If you prefer something a little nicer, I love the JW Marriott Cancun Resort. It’s not all-inclusive, which I enjoy because there are so many delicious restaurants in Cancun! The hotel is located right on the beach and has a huge pool. Rooms are typically $300-$500 USD depending on the time of year.
Of course, we all love a luxury all-inclusive stay and for that, I always book either the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun or the Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun Adults Only. Both are not cheap but are equally as luxurious with fantastic oceanfront locations, delicious food, quality alcohol, and more.
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2019, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
Cancun is one of the top destinations in Mexico, and with a list of so many fantastic activities, it’s no wonder why. It’s safe to say you won’t get bored when visiting Cancun, and if you do, just enjoy the downtime. Cancun is as much about relaxing as it is enjoying activities and tours!
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this huge blog on the best things to do in Cancun. If you did, make sure to check out the Cancun Airport shuttles guide so your arrival here is smooth and then keep planning your trip by having a look at our other popular Mexico blogs, such as: